PARIS — Swiss watch exports rose 3.9 percent in November, with growth fueled by high-end timepieces, which offset a drop in exports of less pricey watches, the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry said on Thursday.
“Performance in the main price segments contrasted sharply in November,” noted the federation.
Analysts stressed the diverging performances of luxury watches and their inexpensive counterparts. “Polarization (high-end wins and low-end loses) continues,” noted Melania Grippo, analyst with Exane BNP Paribas.
Rogerio Fujimori, analyst with RBC Europe, said the contrasted performance supported his preference for Compagnie Financière Richemont over Swatch Group. The analyst predicts a weakening in sell-out trends in key markets like Hong Kong, the U.K. and France over the fourth quarter this year.
The decline of watches below 200 Swiss francs over the month “confirms the negative trend in the segment, while the more expensive price categories had to cope with tough [comparable figures] and the boom in the highest price segment continues,” noted Christian Weiz, analyst with Baader Helvea in a research note.
Watch exports in November totaled 2.06 billion Swiss francs, or $2.07 billion. Watches selling for more than 3,000 Swiss francs led growth, up 8.4 percent, while those priced at less than 200 Swiss francs declined 12.6 percent. Exports of timepieces between 500 Swiss francs and 3,000 Swiss francs were down 0.8 percent, and those priced between 200 Swiss francs and 500 Swiss francs declined the most, down 13.6 percent.
Lower-priced timepieces tend to suffer the most from competition from the Apple watch.
In terms of regions, most markets posted gains, according to the federation, with Mainland China, Hong Kong and the U.S. leading the momentum. Exports to the U.S. increased the most, up 17.6 percent, followed by Mainland China, up 15.1 percent.
Considered a barometer for luxury-goods consumption, Swiss watch exports are closely watched for signs that Chinese appetite for high-end goods could falter amid rising trade tensions.
Exports to Europe lagged, however, and were down 5.9 percent, the federation said. Exports to the U.K. dropped 4.6 percent, while France and Germany posted growth, up 2 percent and 13.2 percent respectively.
In terms of materials, growth was led by gold and steel watches, up 13.8 percent, followed by timepieces made with precious metals, up 6.8 percent. Exports of steel watches were slightly higher, up 0.3 percent.